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printed circuit boards

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Jeff Zimmerman, Sep 6, 2003.

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  1. I'm a 2nd year EE student, and I have a general background in
    electronics. I'm trtying to get started in making my own circuit
    boards. I've done some research on the web, but there is too much out

    Can anyone recommend what to buy, and where to buy it. I'd like to
    make double-sided boards, but I'll settle for single-sided. I'm a poor
    college student so I can't spend too much.
  2. grahamk

    grahamk Guest

    Have a look at
  3. Darkage

    Darkage Guest

    I've just got started to. Probably the cheapest way is etching pen, a
    blank copper board and some etching solution (ammonium persulphate or ferric
    chloride) If you start doing finer work then maybe investigate the press n
    peel stuff.
  4. A E

    A E Guest

    Well, you'll need three things at least.
    * You'll need PCB software, which usually requires input from a schematic
    netlist, but you certainly can enter a netlist by hand, but this gets very
    tedious with modern high pin count parts, and is very error-prone.
    But if you just want to make a board with a 28 pin DIP like a microcontroller,
    and some parts like resistors and LEDS, it should be fine.
    * When your layout is done, your layout software can output photoplot files,
    which is what the people that physically build the PCB use to make the patterns.
    If you want to make your own boards, you'll need a way to transfer that pattern
    yourself onto a piece of copper-clad board. You can either print with a laser
    printer to something called Press'n'peel and transfer the pattern directly with
    a clothes iron (not a soldering iron :) ), or you print with a laser to a
    transparency and use special boards that are light sensitive to expose your
    artwork. You'll need a good UV source and some chemicals to develop the board.
    You also need to clean the board before to make sure the artwork is on there
    nice and good. Usually I use a sponge with an abrasive cleaner like Ajax, then I
    rinse with tap water for a minute, then pre-etch the board for 30 seconds-ish,
    then rinse again, then dry with a shammy.
    * Once the artwork is on the board, you'll need some etchant to remove the
    unwanted copper. I still use ferric chloride because it's cheap and it tastes
    good. There are other etchants out there like ammonium persulphate, which is a
    powder you mix with water, but doesn't taste nearly as good. :) Etchants are
    fairly dangerous and can react wildly with metals, so you'll need nice plastic
    containers to hold the ethchant. I use dollar store food containers.

    You are on your own as to which software to use. Google around for something
    called Eagle, people say it's good.
    Also, be ready to try several times before you get some joy. And always use a
    laser printer. I'm sure your school has a print shop or something like that. And
    do some visual tests first, print on paper and check to see if your parts line
    up on the printout, because I've seen something like +/- 5% variation in size
    for so-called 1:1 printouts.
    And for double-sided boards, try to get it all on one side, double-sided is too
    much trouble unless it's a ground plane.
  5. Well, there is allready a nice explanation replied on how to make curcuit

    But then you still need to buy the UV lights, chemicals etc, which is
    expensive, I know that for a student everything is expensive.

    But here is what I did when I studied:

    Find a practical technical school (mid-level), the kind of education people
    do to become electronics service personal/repair stuff etc. Such a school
    usually has all the equipment, I was able to make my pcb's in the evenings
    at such a place when I studied, just material costs.

    Good luck with it.
  6. Charles Cox

    Charles Cox Guest

    If you look on the Eagle website they provide a list of PCB houses that accept eagle files.
    You don't say where you are, but we are in the US and have been happy with in Canada.

    Chuck Cox
    SynchroSystems Motorsport Computers
    Hopped/Up Racing Team
    <> <>
  7. A E

    A E Guest

    Yeah, but that gets old fast. I used to use the direct transfer method, you
    know, those press on decals?
  8. Lee Leduc

    Lee Leduc Guest

    Try the Engineering Student PCB Program at Advanced Circuits

    $33 per board. See link and specs below.
    Each Specs

    2-layers, FR-4, 0.062", 1 oz Cu Plate, Solder Finish, Min 6-mil Lines,
    All Plated Holes, Green LPI Mask, White Legend, Individually Routed, 1
    Part Number per Order, Max Size 85 sq. inches, no slots, internal
    routing or gold. All $33 each orders will be built to these specs.
    Extra charges apply for multiple part, step, and repeat designs. No
    scoring or internal routing.
  9. Baphomet

    Baphomet Guest

    It would be really helpful to know whether you were interested in making a
    pc board as a prototype / breadboard, or whether you were interested in
    making production quantities.
  10. CWatters

    CWatters Guest

  11. Well, for the copper laminate itself, check :
    "" under the
    "PCB laminate" link. 9" x 12" double sided for
    only $2.50 each, high quality.

    For single-sided, just etch one side away...

    (Yes, it's my site...)
    (Check out the carbide drills at the same time !)
  12. John Smith

    John Smith Guest

    There are lots of deals out there, but I use this one:

    I'm not affiliated with them.

  13. A good layout program like Eagle. A laser printer. And Press-N-Peel.
    Forget double sided as electro plating is a messy process, unless you spend the money to have the
    boards made by a shop.
    You can do double sided, by adding registration holes, and soldering the vias manually. But it gets

    BTW, I think the UV stuff is for the birds.

  14. Bob Masta

    Bob Masta Guest

    You might want to check out my page at
    This uses an ordinary "Sharpie" felt tip pen
    and ferric chloride etchant. Lots of notes on
    all the little details, like making the original
    artwork on graph paper if you don't use CAD,
    getting the right etchant concentration, and
    using dental burs in a Dremel tool instead
    of drill bits.

    I've used this method for about 20 years now.
    If you don't already use a CAD program, you
    may find the graph paper approach to be a
    _lot_ faster than learning the CAD, though
    you'll want to do that eventually. But I've
    used graph paper for fairly complicated
    2-sided boards with good results.

    Bob Masta

    D A Q A R T A
    Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
    Shareware from Interstellar Research
  15. Chris Carlen

    Chris Carlen Guest

    Hi Jeff:

    I have found that the prices for prototype PCB fabrication by commercial
    PCB houses is much cheaper than the time that I would have to spend to
    make them myself, even on a student's budget.

    A student can get for $33 at, a double sided, solder
    masked, and silkscreened PCB.

    Get Eagle which can do up to 100mm x 160mm for free, and your set.

    Next, seriously work at getting someone at the school to pay for your
    costs. Get some sort of lab assistant job, or get involved with some
    research projects. There are likely folks who have budgets that can pay
    for your PCBs, and maybe even a higher license level of Eagle to do
    larger boards and more layers, if need be. Dream up some cool circuit
    they can use for an undergrad lab project, talk them into wanting it,
    then put your project's pattern on the same board (but try to make it
    unobvious, as might reject it if it's obvious there are more
    than one "part numbers" on the board). Cut the two patterns apart later.

    I would also avoid the real easy and simple PCB programs out there,
    which may not provide enough headroom for you to grow, as you move
    closer to a career. Eagle is a "mid-level" program. In my view, it's
    just right for a beginner, and sophisticated enough to handle your needs
    for many years of learning and skill development. Also, the newest
    version of Eagle really adds a bunch of features that take it closer to
    the high-mid-level. And there are a number of licensing levels for
    different budgets.

    Good day!

    Christopher R. Carlen
    Principal Laser/Optical Technologist
    Sandia National Laboratories CA USA
    -- NOTE: Remove "BOGUS" from email address to reply.
  16. Is that a student special? Their terms state a minimum of 3 pieces at
    that price, plus shipping, plus a $10 handling fee, so more like USD

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  17. Yes.

  18. No.

  19. Richard

    Richard Guest - roughly USD $26 for a 2-sided board with
    silkscreen and solder mask. By far the cheapest I've found for single

    You will find that most other PCB houses offer ~$13 boards, but
    effectively require a $75 to $100 minimum order. At least the 12 or so
    major shops I've surveyed. is commonly mentioned for cheap boards. They
    were about 2x-3x Olimex in my personal survey, but I was profiling a
    certain spec (2-sided, solder mask, silkscreen). They may be very good
    for bare boards.
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